Astronomy
Shooting star

Catch a Falling Star



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Shooting star
Trenna Sue Hiler's image for:
"Catch a Falling Star"
Caption: Shooting star
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Image by: Ed Sweeny
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“Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day.” There has always been something exciting about spotting a falling star. For those who are lucky enough to enjoy a meteor shower, it is a thrill that is hard to describe. It makes you feel like a very small part of a very big universe. It is also very addicting.

There are many meteor showers that are very predictable. Meteorologists usually share dates, best viewing times and locations to experience a rain shower of stars.

One of the biggest issues for experiencing the full effect of a meteor shower is to find the darkest place to view the sky. This means getting away from city lights. For some, just seeing how many stars are in the sky will be an overwhelming experience. Even the light of the moon can interfere with the best viewing situation. A cloudy night is not the time to try and view a meteor shower. Go back to bed and look for better night.

Once you find your viewing location, out in the middle of nowhere, it is time to set up dark camp and prepare to watch the sky. It is not going to be like fireworks on the 4th of July. But with a little bit of patience, it is spectacular.

Once you get your lawn chairs or blankets laid out and all your warm clothes on it is time to find the part of the sky  where you want to begin the search. Search for the darkest patch of sky you can find. The  meteors will always travel in a path away from the constellation for which the shower has been named. The apparent point of origin is call the radiant.

It is important to get eyes adjust to the night sky. You want to be relaxed. You don’t want to stare at one single spot, but sweep the area and watch for movement. Do not have lights around. Every time you use use a flashlight, open a car door or look at light your eyes have to readjust. Sorry, no campfires for meteor showers.

Most of the best viewing happens after midnight.  Soon you will hear someone say look and if you weren’t on it, you missed it. Chances are you should just relax the eyes and look for movement rather than turning to see what another is watching. They fall fast then they are gone.

Dress warmly and enjoy the show.

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More about this author: Trenna Sue Hiler

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ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2010-119
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.amsmeteors.org/meteor-showers/meteor-faq/